3 Happy Holiday Foods to Boost Your Mood
There is no denying it. The holiday season is in full force and will continue through New Year's Day. One way you are most likely celebrating the holidays is with food. Food -glorious food! Some foods make us feel good because they remind us of happy memories. Your mother’s sugar cookies, your nana’s chocolate babka, or your uncle’s New Year’s pretzel may give you the warm fuzzies of sentimentality. Yet in addition to these comfort foods there are some foods which enhance our mood through biology. In this post I am going to tell you about three mood boosting holiday foods you don’t want to miss out on.
This one is a no-brainer isn’t it? We all know that chocolate makes us feel good with its rich melt in your mouth yumminess. But why? Aside from chocolate being a sensory delight, it also contains phenylethylamine (PEA) which boosts endorphin levels (our body’s natural pain killers). Chocolate is also reported to increase our levels of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Dark chocolate is said to have greater health benefits than milk chocolate and you don’t need much to reap these benefits. An ounce or two (a couple of squares) of dark chocolate a day may not only make you feel happier, but it may provide other health benefits as well. For example, in 2010 John’s Hopkins researchers found that dark chocolate may guard against brain injury from stroke.
Additional reading on the benefits of chocolate:
2. Oranges-The Feel Good Fruit:
If you are like me you probably have relatives who send you a box of fruit for the holidays. As a matter of fact, we received two boxes of fruit this year, mostly oranges. Along with their bright and sunny appeal, oranges pack a powerful biological punch to stabilize your mood. Oranges contain thiamine or Vitamin B1. A deficiency in thiamine can cause fatigue and poor mood according to a study by Benton and Donohoe (1999). Oranges also contain folic acid which plays a critical role in healthy brain functioning. One who is deficient in folic acid may experience a depressed mood. The literature reports that psychiatric patients are at an increased risk for developing a folic acid deficiency possibly due to poor appetite and/or the use of anticonvulsant drugs which inhibit folic acid absorption. Oranges also contain Vitamin C which is vital for a well functioning immune system. In addition, the scent of citrus has been known to enhance mood and a feeling of well being for many people.
More on Orange Happiness:
It is inevitable that you will come across a dish, dessert, or can of nuts this holiday season which contains walnuts. For those with no allergies to nuts, walnuts can be mood enhancing food. Walnuts contain both omega-3 fatty acids as well as a substance called uridine. Both of these substances are reported to increase the functioning of brain neurotransmitters which, in turn, ups the chances for you to be in a good mood. In some studies those people who are deficient in omega-3 essential fatty acids report more symptoms of depression than those with adequate levels. In fact, there are some researchers who conclude that both omega-3 fatty acids and uridine may have mood enhancing effects equaling the use of an antidepressant. In 2004 Harvard researchers published a study in Biological Psychiatry which showed that these two natural substances (found in walnuts and other foods) prevented symptoms of depression in rats as effectively as antidepressant medication. Other foods which contain this beneficial combination are sugar beets and molasses.
Additional reading on the health benefits of walnuts:
Other mood enhancing holiday foods include things like green tea, red wine, and turkey. Do you have a favorite “happy” food that you like to eat during the holidays? Tell us about it! We would love to hear from you.
Here are some additional Health Central articles on the role of food and diet on your mood: